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Samsung SPH-A840 (Sprint) review: Samsung SPH-A840 (Sprint)

Samsung SPH-A840 (Sprint)

Stewart Wolpin
5 min read
Samsung PM-A840
With every new wave of cell phones, consumers are being offered more and more features for less and less money, a trend exemplified by the Samsung PM-A840, available from Sprint PCS. In addition to the admittedly low-grade VGA camera, a speakerphone, Web-surfing capabilities, and a simple yet striking style that aids instead of impairs ergonomics, the light and compact PM-A840 offers superior volume and sound quality. Originally priced at $229.99, the Sprint PM-A840 is available for as low as $59 with a service contract. The sleek style on the Samsung PM-A840 hardly jumps out at you, but that's not to say it isn't remarkable. Rounded edges and an internal antenna make for few extremities, while the silver trim bordering the black face allows visibility inside a dark purse. At just 3.5 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches and 3.2 ounces, the PM-A840 also slides easily into tight pockets.


Samsung SPH-A840 (Sprint)

The Good

Light, compact form factor; clear reception; loud earpiece and speakerphone volume; analog roaming.

The Bad

Small display; poor camera with no flash; short standby battery life.

The Bottom Line

Although its display and talk time weren't up to par, the Samsung PM-A840 is a phone that combines a midrange array of multimedia features with excellent sound quality and volume.

The PM-A840 has a sleek form factor.

The postage stamp-size external display is monochrome, but it shows the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). You can't change the backlighting time, however, so the face goes completely black when off. The camera lens sits above the display. You won't find a flash or a self-portrait mirror, but the external screen doubles as a grainy, barely visible viewfinder if you activate the camera with the flip closed. Below the camera-activation key on the right spine is a key with a speaker icon. Holding this button activates the Voice Commands function. With the flip up, pressing the same button once also brings up a list of recently made calls. On the left spine are the volume toggle and the headset jack.

Inside, the Samsung PM-A840 is all black, but the white-backlit keypad buttons are highly readable even in the brightest light. But because the small, raised keys are close together, users with larger hands may have trouble with misdials. On the other hand, the 1.8-inch-diagonal display is so bright and colorful (65,000 colors) that it seems bigger than it actually is. The text also is highly readable, due to a choice of font sizes and colors, a contrast control, and an adjustable backlighting time. The navigation keys are adequately sized, and they're placed and shaped well for sure-fingered manipulation. The five-way toggle doubles as a shortcut to four user-definable functions. You also get two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Back key, and a dedicated speakerphone control.

The phone book on the Samsung PM-A840 holds 300 entries with room for multiple phone numbers and an e-mail address. You can also pair contacts with a picture for caller ID--though the image won't show up on the external display--and one of 20 polyphonic ring tones or 9 monophonic tones. Other features include a vibrate mode, voice dialing and commands, a calendar, a world clock, an alarm clock, a to-do list, a memo pad, a calculator, and a countdown timer. You also get text and multimedia messaging and text voice messaging, which lets you leave a voice message without actually ringing the other person's phone. The speakerphone is another thoughtful touch, and you can turn it on before you make a call.

Bare bones: The PM-A840's camera lens doesn't come with a flash.

Image quality on the VGA camera in anything but the brightest light can charitably be described as mediocre, and there's no flash to improve matters. You can take pictures in three resolutions--640x480, 320x240, and 180x160--and there are a number of picture-editing options, including three quality settings (Brightness, Orientation, and White Balance), five color-tone choices, and 11 fun frames. Be advised you have to choose fun frames and color tones when you snap your shot; they can't be added afterward. You get a self-timer and a 10X zoom; in an especially nice touch, you can also superimpose another picture of a handwritten message over an existing picture, which Samsung calls a wireless postcard. Uploading pictures took less than a minute, and you can send photos directly to Sprint for printing. The number of pictures you can save to the phone varies by resolution, ranging from 45 at the highest setting to 125 at the lowest. As noted, VGA photos are expectedly awful. A slow shutter produced blurry shots unless we kept stock-still, an effort that resulted in surprisingly crisp snaps but practically devoid of accurate color.

The PM-A840 has average image quality for a VGA camera.

You can personalize the Samsung PM-A840 with a variety of wallpaper, or you can get more if you want them with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. You can download other ring tones as well. Just be advised you can't lower or mute the ringer via the volume toggle unless the flip is up. The phone comes with demo versions of three Java (J2ME) games--Tetris, Jamdat Bowling, and Ms. Pac-Man--but you can download more titles if you're an avid gamer.

We wandered around New York City to test the triband (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS800) Samsung PM-A840. Voice volume was so loud that we had to lower it to about half; reception was clean, clear, and virtually uninterrupted despite the subsumed antenna; and vocal quality was natural and crystalline. In fact, the earpiece magnet is powerful enough to get small paper clips to stick to the silver trim on the outside. All in all, the PM-A840 delivered some of the best vocal and reception performance we've seen in a cell phone in some time, which is even more surprising, considering Sprint's pockmarked network.

Speakerphone sound quality through the earpiece was loud but hollow and scratchy, but as long as we kept the mic relatively close to our mouths, coconversationalists reported no echo and clear sound. Once the phone was placed on a desk, volume dipped on our end, while an increasingly hollow sound and vocal quality became an issue at the other end. Ringer volume does not match the mighty vocal modulation but, with the right ring tone, is loud enough to be heard from a pants pocket or a purse.

We culled 3.25 hours of talk time on a single charge, just short of the rated time of 3.8 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the Samsung PM-A840 has a digital SAR rating of 1.29 watts per kilogram and an analog SAR rating of 0.77 watts per kilogram.


Samsung SPH-A840 (Sprint)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 6Performance 7
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